Hot Vinyasa at Om on the Range

Originally published on LiveJournal, 8.5.08_

(This article is part of a series of reviews I call Taste of Chicago Yoga

So, yesterday I took my first hot yoga class at Om on the Range. Damn, it was hot. Like, 100 degrees Fahrenheit hot. I have mixed feelings about the health benefits of this. The whole “sweating out the toxins” discourse seems pretty froofy to me. You do get more flexible in the heat, which could help some people get into the more difficult poses, but I doubt you can keep this flexibility afterward.

The real issue for me is that the heat and sweat are plain distracting. Within seconds everyone is covered head-to-toe in a glistening film, and it drips everywhere. Most people simply cover their entire yoga mat in a huge towel. Still, it keeps pouring. Also, your body goes into a kind of overdrive to deal with the heat. The heart races more than usual, the breath becomes more labored. The regular class is indeed just 60 minutes long, as opposed to 90 minutes for a regular vinyasa class.

I just don’t know about this. Why not increase your heart rate by working your muscles harder, i.e., actually doing the work? It’s just hard for me to see this as anything but a kind of gimmick, cashing out on the folklore of “sweating is healthy” or even “sweating helps you lose weight.” It doesn’t help that the studio also teaches two annoyingly copyrighted forms of yoga: Bikram and Baron-Baptiste, which are exactly just yoga in a hot room, except that the sequence of poses is, like, totally unique. In spite of it all, you do leave the class feeling somewhat cleansed, like after a sauna, and for people who have a difficulty building up a sweat (I know people like that), hot yoga can be uniquely refreshing.

Om on the Range is a nice little studio, featuring one medium-sized heated space with mirrors. The mirrors creep me out just a little.

Special bonus points go out to the girl with Tourette’s in the class, who was just an awesome practitioner and a good sport in general. At first I thought she was the instructor trying to give me instructions. In addition to some run-of-the-mill cussing, she kept emitting the most delightfully appropriate comments. My favorite: “damn, it's hot.” You tell it, girl.



In the evening, I went to another yoga class, at Lakeview Athletic Club, because it was free and my genes always tell me that if something is free I should take two. My friend, who teaches it, invited me as a guest. I’ve always walked by this gym, admiring the climbing wall, and wondering if some day I would be able to afford to go to a place where you pay to ride bikes that go nowhere, hoping to reach a body shape that resembles your money. I bumped into a friend there, who broke this fantasy by telling me that they have decent student rates.

It started off as a regular vinyasa class... until the storm enveloped us. The studio is on the 5th floor, with a gorgeous three-way view of the city. It was awesome to see the lightning flash all around us, hear the thunder... until a big boom took out the power, made a few girls (or gay men) scream, and someone came up to tell us that there was a tornado warning and we should go down to the basement but not panic. My teacher friend did panic because her sister was just about to land at O’Hare, but a few phone calls revealed that everything was fine. DUE TO THE KARMIC POWER OF YOGA. So, we went back up and did hand stands, surrounded by lightning.